What is flexographic printing?

Flexographic printing is a popular method for printing large orders of custom labels at rapid speeds by transferring ink onto the paper or film material using flexible printing plates mounted on fast-rotating cylinders. Flexographic printing plates allow customization options that aren’t possible with some other types of presses. A variety of products can be printed on flexographic presses like pressure-sensitive labels, shrink sleeve labels, flexible packets, multi-ply labels, double-sided printed labels, and more.

Materials

  • ‘Web-fed materials’ are materials being continuously fed into the flexographic press from large rolls of raw material stock. Using material rolls instead of individual sheets allow us to quickly print large orders and then cut the material to the desired final product at a separate station. With our flexographic presses, we can print an average of 350 feet per minute – or four miles of material an hour! Flexographic printing is significantly faster than digital, making large runs of labels more cost-effective to print on flexo presses.

Printing Plates

  • Printing “plates” are thin sheets of polymer material, laser engraved with an image of your digital artwork. These plates are wrapped around cylinders and installed on the press where they’re coated with ink that then transfers onto the web-fed material; each color being printed requires it’s own plate. We produce these plates in-house, a capability that’s not available with every label printing company. By doing this, we’re able to save you time and money with faster lead times and elimination of the cost of a third-party plate maker.

4 Color Process + Inks

  • Full-color labels can be achieved with 4-color process printing which refers to these ink colors: cyan, magenta, yellow and “key” (printing term for black). It’s important to design your label artwork in CMYK colors – not RGB! Electronic screens on computers, smartphones, and tablets use RGB (red, green, blue) colors and can look different from one screen to another due to different displays. Here’s an easy way to remember the difference: CMYK = printing, RGB = electronic screens. By using this 4-color process, we can print single or multi-color labels for a photographic-quality look. CMYK inks are usually enough to achieve most colors, however, we can also print color variations through spot colors.

Water-Based and Ultraviolet Curable Inks

  • Water-based and UV curable inks are our go-to systems since they offer great print quality and are less harmful to the environment than solvent inks. Our most popular option is water-based inks as they are less expensive and work on a variety of materials. UV inks are a more specialized type of ink because they’re cured by an ultraviolet lamp which turns the ink from a liquid into solid. This process is much faster than air drying. UV inks also offer easier press setups and reduce energy consumption since they dry nearly instantaneously. The quick drying time produces sharper colors; the only drawback of UV inks is that it tends to cost more than other ink types.

Cutting Dies

  • After your label is printed, the next step is to cut them to the desired final shape. ‘Cutting dies’ are metallic cylinders with shallow blades on the surface that slice the label shape into the material so excess material around the labels can be removed. We have thousands of cutting dies and can create a custom cutting die for you (a one-time fee applies) and do everything we can to ensure the right die is paired with your material and liner. Less experienced printing companies can sometimes select a die that cuts the material/liner too deep, making it hard to remove the label from the liner.

Customization Options

  • Our flexo presses are equipped to handle a special process called cold foil stamping which prints foil material onto the web-fed materials, creating metallic accents within the label art. The foil begins as silver, however, we can tint it to gold or any other color you want through Pantone color matching. Another unique flexographic-only option is multi-layer (or “multi-ply”) labels. This specialty label product is great for fitting lots of text onto your packaging without adding much bulk to the product.

Further Discussion

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